It was a hot day. Hot in comparison to the previous 5 months of near and sub-zero conditions so the heat was a bit of a shock. I arrived back in the UK on Tuesday to 2 degrees. it has warmed up all week but the next run I did was today at 23 degrees. A veritable scorcher!
This was a fairly last minute addition to the race calendar as regular readers will know that I have bemoaned lack of miles, cancelled races, yada-yada-yada.......However, it dovetailed perfectly with a visit to the awesome Tracy and Mark in Diss, Norfolk. Tracy and Mark left London 3 years ago and purchased a 15th century cottage and are enjoying the country life. Tracy and Mrs UB go way back and Mark and I share a passion for cooking, drinking cider, ale and wine and all essentially all things anti-lugubrious!
Preparation for the marathon included a 5 mile walk around heathland and fenland. The fens were utterly waterlogged and I traded my XC shoes for bare feet to traverse sunken pathways whilst the crew soldiered on in a workmanlike fashion in stout walking boots. Following an hour in the pub, sampling local cider, a spicy but gorgeous Thai meal washed down with wine and then a glimpse into Mark's drinks cabinet saw a great evening but a less than perfect preparation evening.
Bring on Sunday. Last year Jezza and I drove from the crack of dawn.... (poor Dawn!) but this year was a lie in until 8am and drop scones, bananas, bacon and maple syrup for brekkie....again, not ideal prep for marathon duties. Howver, Mark's drop scones (aka Scotch Pancakes were moreish) and a 20 min drive to the start.
Mrs UB dropped me there and went for morning tea and then luncheon with Tracy in Beccles. I set off at a 6 rasher of bacon and 5 drop scones 8.35s for the first 6 miles. The sun was out...the 4 hills were knocked off and then turning into Beccles was getting the "runners high" that I had not had in ages. Miles 7 through to 14 were just lovely. Not fast.....7.45s to 8.15s but this was only a training run, nothing else. Such a buzz round the back of the course.
I spotted many a possibility for other runs.....The Angles Way, The Godric Way, The Broad Circular Way...
So puffing up the second round of hills up above the River Waveney and her valley I felt the heat beat down and realised that I was overtaking many of the earlier marathon runners. The half marathoners were whizzing past (the winner in 1.15) but I was content with expansive views over the Waveney, dykes and ditches, fields of Phragmites australis, corncrakes and the occasional sound of predatory hawks. Taking on the hawk concept, I was definitely a Dove today. Flitting from runner to runner...."Are you OK?" "Want some Jelly beans?" as I was going along. I dropped pace at 20 to a sedentary 8.45s and then a couple of 9s back into the ferocious headwind. Sunburnt (despite factor 50!) I began picking off some slower half marathoners and having a chat with some of the old boy 100 marathoners. 5 miles back I had a 3.35-3.40 finish but I was content with the conversation and camaraderie to enjoy and crossed the line in 3hrs 51 mins.
I love the Black Dog as it gave me 2 things...friendship with the amazing Johnny Mac 4 years ago and a PB back then. I've now done this 3 times and each time I am slower on each occasion. Awesome weekend.